4 Bootstrapping Marketing Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank
4 Bootstrapping Marketing Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank
Bootstrapping has become an especially popular strategy for today’s entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses. Don’t know what that is? In essence, it is the concept of starting a business with very little cash, spending only when you need to spend, and increasing your budgets only as it is merited. Bootstrapping ensures that the founders have only themselves to answer to rather than venture capitalists and angel investors — and that they keep the bulk of the profits, too.
However, bootstrapping does present a catch-22 of sorts. By definition, bootstrapped businesses don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around, and yet they have an even more urgent need to fund a marketing budget than a Fortune 500 company with millions to spend in ad buys alone. What to do?
Time to get scrappy and creative, as is the startup way.
Create Meaningful Connections With Social media
Hands down, one of the most important tasks in a bootstrapped company’s daily life is working on actively growing and connecting with your following via social media. Putting aside paid ads for now, Twitter to Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+, social media is as free as they come. Each of these platforms level the playing field and together they are one of the few direct access routes available for reaching motivated customers.
But that’s the rub: if those connections are going to have any value. No customer, no matter how intrinsically motivated, wants to be barraged daily with @mentions that are little more than overly casual advertisements. Instead, bootstrapping startups should focus their efforts on building relationships with followers through retweets, favorites, and replies. As part of your everyday routine, set aside time to scour the web for interesting content to share that establishes your expertise, and Tweet about it in a voice that is unique to your brand. Set an editorial calendar and begin creating your own expert content that can be shared on your social media feeds. If you haven’t got much time, focus on quality rather than quantity. Eventually, you’ll want to start creating industry-leading branded content as well, but for that you’ll need writers, designers, and a budget.
And of course, don’t forget to keep it fun. Playing games on social media can be a highly engaging strategy. Trivia questions, photo contests, and even location-based treasure hunts will get your followers competing and participating at record rates.
No matter what strategies you embrace, social media is a must for bootstrapping businesses.
Do a Giveaway
When you’re launching a new company, it’s important to get your product out in front of influential customers. While you may not have a warehouse full of product that you can give to customers for free, even giving away one to the right customer can be helpful, as they’ll spread news about your product to their vast network. While the prize itself should generate excitement, giveaways are all about the buzz as you promote on social media sites as well as on your blog and through your email marketing. That means that you could also give away a grand prize that’s unrelated to your company but alluring to a wide audience.
And don’t worry: you can still create a good giveaway even when you’re bootstrapping. In fact, the prize doesn’t have to be expensive at all as long as it’s highly relevant to your customers. If your business is related to a good cause, you could get your prize donated. Talented family and friends could also donate their work. In fact, if your business is in the service sector, your prize could be several free hours of your time.
Guerilla marketing is as low-cost as they come, as the whole goal of this tactic is to integrate your marketing fluidly into your potential customers’ everyday lives. You might, for example, swap out the lyrics to a popular song with those that promote your product, gather your friends in a public space and have a flash mob. You could also keep the lyrics and just have your friends wearing t-shirt with your logo, so that customers see your branding as they’re unexpectedly delighted. You could employ your best metaphors to highlight the differences between your company and your competitor, like WePay did when they dropped a block of ice with a sign that read, “PayPal will freeze your account” at a PayPal conference.
However, to do well with this type of marketing, make sure to sit down beforehand and set some clear objectives so that your efforts are as targeted as possible. Have all of the logistics worked out and have contingency plans in the event anything going wrong, like, say, the cops closing down your “spontaneous performance” because you don’t have the right permits. And of course, sit down at the end of the campaign evaluate how it all went.
Build Strategic Partnerships
When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to look at your competitors like enemies. But chances are, they actually have a slightly different niche or audience than you do, and there’s the potential to refer and co-market — and yes, even ride on your partner’s coattails. To successfully pitch a partnership, however, you have to know your brand and what you do inside and out so that you can show your potential partner why you’re better working together than apart. Perhaps, for example, you both offer businesses SEO help, but you focus on small businesses and they focus on large corporations. You can advertise and market together, and refer when a given business falls in the partner business’ camp.
Alternatively, you might consider partnering with a business that offers a complimentary services. Hairdressers, for example, may do well in a partnership with a nail salon, while a masseuse might be well partnered with a physical therapist. Together, partnerships will provide added value for a customer, lifting all boats at once.
Bootstrapped businesses may not have a lot of free cash hanging around, but with passion, heart, bravery, and creativity, your business actually has greater freedom to experiment and get right down on the customer level.
What are your favorite bootstrapping marketing tactics? Let us know in the comments below.